For the last decade, pulsing lights and droning industrial music have been the lone accoutrements of the subterranean rave scene, a kind of contemporary tribal ritual matching all-night dancing with bare, synthesized rhythms. But it was only a matter of time before visual art joined ravers on the dance floor. Feile Case, whose monumental glow-in-the-dark backdrops have fueled local ravers through many an undulating night, is riding the crest of that wave. This week he'll open a new show featuring a cross-section of his work.
"I started out doing larger-than-life figures with spray paint on huge sheets of paper," says Case, a mostly self-taught artist who came here from Indiana in 1987. "Then I moved on to Styrofoam." He made a name for himself in the local rave culture by creating twelve-foot-tall figures with many arms; inspired by East Indian gods and goddesses, the writhing figures were drenched with fluorescent highlights. Perhaps the high point of Case's rave career came when he created backdrops for something called the Eden series, a properly pagan rave held outdoors in the mountains near Boulder. Not only had he found an artistic outlet, but the gig also paid.
By 1994 Case had dropped out of the scene. But his work continues to draw from rave roots. In addition to the acrylic canvases upon which he smears fluorescent and phosphorescent pigments and adheres three-dimensional objects, Case makes lamp sculptures he calls "light bodies," formed of Japanese and handmade papers layered over wooden forms in organic shapes. From inside the forms, cool light glows like an extrinsic life force contained in space. One person likened them to "alien cocoons," giving them an X-Files-inspired, pop connotation. "I thought that about them, too," Case says. "I just didn't want to say it first. But they do look that weird." He's received a commission for several of the lamps from a nightclub owner planning a new space.
At the same time, Case finds himself pulled back into the spell of the ravers, a coterie that recently experienced a lull before coming back on a surge of interest in trip-hop and electronica music. "It takes a beating every once in a while, especially from the authorities," Case says of the scene. "But it's not going to die, because it's not a concept per se--it's more of a feeling. That makes it hard for people to shake."
He likes the idea that rave culture inspires a sense of unity between artists and musicians. In the future, he hopes to cross over to the musical side by combining primal, ethereal vocals with modern ambient dance music in much the same way his artwork combines living and breathing elements with technological ones. "It's the people aspect that pushed me into painting--the element that makes change happen," he says. "Without people, the world wouldn't change as much. I'm comfortable with what my paintings say; however, I want to make sure that what I'm about to say with music will do the same for people.
"A lot of people tend to have a really large fear of their own power," Case says. "That's what people should be looking at--we should be embracing our own chaos, working with that rather than allowing that fear to control the big picture."
Works by Feile Case, September 4 to October 11, 8 Oz. Fred Gallery, 26 Broadway, 303-744-9659. Opening reception, with techno and ambient trip music by Marcel Peelen and Ultra Girl, 7 p.m. September 4.